Dems Block NSA Bill, Demand Bush Unblock Investigation
"A White House-endorsed plan to formally legalize the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program ran into more political problems yesterday in the Senate, as Democrats successfully maneuvered to block a committee vote on the proposal.
"In addition, three of the committee's leading Democrats announced that they would block the confirmation of a senior Justice Department official in protest of a recent move by President Bush. The president effectively stopped a probe into the NSA program by denying security clearances to Justice Department investigators. . . . they demanded that Bush grant the security clearances necessary to resume the investigation." (WPost)
In Rare Move, Senate Intel Chair Blasts WH for Over-Classification
The Senate Intelligence Committee voted to release two completed segments of the final and long-awaited "Phase II" report on pre-war Iraq intelligence. But according to chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS), who has long been blamed for the delay in releasing the report, this time it's not his fault.
âI have been disappointed by this administrationâs unwillingness to declassify material contained in these reports, material which I believe better informs the public, but that does not â I repeat, does not â jeopardize intelligence operations, sources and methods,â Roberts said Tuesday. (NYTimes)
Prosecutors Face Pre-Election Dilemma
"With election season kicking into high gear, federal prosecutors investigating a handful of lawmakers may face a tough call on whether to secure indictments that could throw their congressional races into disarray.
"'This is a really difficult issue for prosecutors,' says Randall Eliason, who oversaw public-corruption cases in the U.S. attorney's office here during the Clinton administration. 'You are damned if you do and damned if you don't, and either course is going to potentially affect the election.'"(WSJ)
Struggling Harris Loses Four More Campaign Staff
"Four more staffers have left Katherine Harris' troubled U.S. Senate campaign, which is putting an upbeat face on the reams of bad publicity that have rolled in with renewed force this week.
"''We're excited,'' said spokeswoman Jennifer Marks, touting the endorsement of Florida Right to Life on Wednesday." (Miami Herald)
Katherine Harris Predicts Victory against Odds
"We'll win, so don't listen to the prognosticators, or the pollsters â you can make a poll say anything you want," Harris told about two dozen people at a luncheon...
People who once worked for her question why she's hasn't bowed out.
"I believe the reason she's running are two," said former campaign manager Jim Dornan. "She doesn't believe ever that she has done anything wrong and she has an ego that's so outsized it won't allow her to think in a reasonable manner." (AP)
Green Party Petition Company Has Checkered Past
"We see that the Democratic Party is thinking about challenging those Green Party petitions to get its U.S. Senate candidate, Carl Romanelli, on the fall ballot here in Pa. Romanelli's presence would hurt Democratic challenger Bob Casey Jr., by siphoning votes on the far left. . . .
"But if the Democrats are serious about a challenge, they should look closely at the company that conducted the drive, Florida-based JSM Inc. Why? We have no idea how the company was able to gather its 90,000 signatures in Pennsylvania (remember, the Pennsylvania Green Party only has 20,000 members), but in recent years the company has been dogged with controversy from coast to coast." (Attytood)
Congressmen Question Oil Windfall
"Two congressmen said Thursday someone at the Interior Department may have deliberately removed provisions from offshore drilling contracts, giving oil companies a multibillion-dollar windfall." (AP)
Redistricting Arguments Heard
"The...map [proposed by the state of Texas] would shift Austin, the hometown of longtime Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett, into a district now represented by Rep. Lamar Smith, a San Antonio Republican...U.S. District Judge Patrick Higginbotham, the presiding judge, asked Cruz why the state map called for eliminating Doggett's political base. [Ted] Cruz [Texas' attorney] said the state was trying to make the districts more compact. Doggett's current district runs from Austin to the Mexican border. Cruz also said the maps submitted by Democratic and Latino groups, which were submitting their arguments later Thursday, tried to create too many Hispanic districts and gain a political edge." (AP)
GOP Senators Support Whistleblower Bill
"Senators Rick Santorum, R-PA, and Conrad Burns, R-MT, support implementation of Official Secretâs Act, S.3774, introduced yesterday by Senator Christopher Bond, R-MO, to criminalize the unauthorized disclosure of classified information." (NSWC)
Full Circle of Leavitts' Charity Cash Bugs Critics
"Some members of a Utah foundation board were and remain troubled about a deal with the politically powerful Leavitt family that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax-deductible donations flowing back to the Leavitts in the form of student rent.... Nearly $500,000 in charitable contributions from the Dixie and Anne Leavitt Foundation - named for the parents of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt - went to the Southern Utah Foundation, flowed through Southern Utah University as housing scholarships and, eventually, was recycled to the Leavitts as student rent in family-owned apartments." (Salt Lake Tribune)
Sensenbrenner Racks Up Frequent Flier Miles
"Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner has taken around $200,000 worth of privately funded travel over the past 6 1/2 years, more than any other lawmaker, according to a new report. Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., topped the list last year as well." (AP)
Insurance Firm to Pay to Settle Charges
"The Securities and Exchange Commission and a group of state insurance regulators on Thursday announced that a Texas insurance company will pay up to $70 million to settle allegations that it targeted American military personnel with a deceptive sales program. Since 2000, about 57,000 U.S. military service members purchased the Horizon Life product from American-Amicable Life Insurance Company and its affiliates, and most earned little or nothing on their investment. The SEC complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, said the company's sales agents claimed the investment would make the service men and women millionaires." (AP)